There are many different ways to make an impact in the fight against global poverty. Volunteering abroad is one option that offers numerous ways to help.
Volunteer abroad programs offer a variety of opportunities to help global communities. Whether you are interested in teaching children, building schools or helping communities establish cleaner water supplies, there is most likely a program to fit your needs.
“Cross-Cultural Solutions is a nonprofit working to address critical global issues by providing meaningful volunteer service to communities abroad, and contributing responsibly to local economies.” Cross-Cultural Solutions is a volunteer abroad organization that seeks to do just what its name implies: find cross-cultural ways to combat poverty.
The organization only sends volunteers to locations with established relationships between themselves and local organizations and communities, so when you arrive to volunteer, you’re working with people who are invested in improving their community. In each Cross-Cultural Solutions location, volunteers are housed at a home base that provides them with three meals a day, which is what the majority of the program fee goes to.
Volunteer programs can range from a week to three months, so volunteers have a lot of options even if they’re in school or have a full-time job. Additionally, volunteers have the option to take excursions on the weekends during longer trips, or volunteer in multiple destinations in a row, making travel a part of the program as well!
Known as the origin of “the volunteer vacation,” Global Volunteers focuses on short-term volunteer abroad programs, making them a perfect fit for students or anyone who cannot commit to a long period abroad.
Global Volunteers works to “engage short-term volunteers on long-term projects” in countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America. As volunteers only stay for a short period of time, they are working with existing projects, or projects that will continue long after they leave.
An additional focus of the program is that volunteers “work at the invitation and under the direction of local community partners, and one-on-one with local people.” They only do what they are asked to do and work with and under the direction of local people to find out what’s best from the community from the people who understand it best.
As its name suggests, WorldTeach focuses on sending teachers to foreign countries as they “partner with governments and other organizations in developing countries to provide volunteer teachers to meet local needs and promote responsible citizenship.”
Because the program sends volunteers out to teach, its programs tend to run longer than Cross-Cultural Solutions or Global Volunteers. Full-year programs are available in a wealth of countries around the globe such as Chile, Colombia, Guyana, the Marshall Islands and Thailand, just to name a few.
Similarly, shorter summer programs exist where volunteers can travel to countries like Poland, Nepal and South Africa. For volunteers who prefer to spend a semester teaching abroad, there are programs in Ecuador and Namibia. Before applying, WorldTeach requires applicants choose their country and departure date, unlike some other programs.
Volunteers receive support throughout the duration of their work, and have an alumni network that they can access at the conclusion of their program.
Additionally, volunteers have the opportunity to receive his or her teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) certification through professional development and a $350 fee.
The funds for WorldTeach programs come directly from the organization, the volunteer and the chosen country’s host institution. As such, costs for different programs vary, with some requiring a higher monetary commitment, and a few countries paying in full for volunteer teachers.
No matter which program you choose, there are a few things to keep in mind when seeking to volunteer abroad.
Volunteers are working with a community. That means helping local organizations and communities while being humble about your place there and working to understand the new culture in which you’ve immersed yourself.
Volunteering is about helping people, and even though you will find fulfillment and gain valuable experience, the focus is always on working with your chosen community.
Once you find a program that you are passionate about and that works responsibly with organizations within the community, you’re all set to start your volunteer abroad experience!
– Cameron Barney